Our children are the most important people in our lives. People across the globe are feeling fearful and anxious about the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our kids are now constantly home with us hearing our conversations and the news, which can cause them to become depressed and anxious too. Younger children may not completely understand what we are saying, but they feel the fear and frustration coming from the adults in the house. The calmer and more reassuring the parents are, the more relaxed the children will be.
As a Liscensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), I have delt with many individuals and families who were feeling stress and had challenging situations to deal with. I have many years of experience with crisis intervention in a hospital setting. I also spend a year as a Special Needs Counselor for children in a local school system. Here are some ideas for helping your kids through these difficult and unusual times.
First Reduce the Parents Stress
Often as parents, we are stressed out about work, lack of work, paying the bills, and what to make for dinner. Now on top of all of that, we are dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic and all of the stress that comes along with it. You might be trying to work from home and take care of your family all at the same time. You may have lost your job and you’re concerned about how you will put food on the table. You must communicate with your support system. Make time to talk to friends and family that are supportive. If you have never used meditation, now is a good time to start. There are many apps for your smartphone or videos on YouTube that can guide you through a meditation. Getting a regular workout and eating healthy meals helps you both physically and mentally. You can’t take care of your children if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Have Frequent and Honest Conversations
Honesty is the best policy with your kids. It’s important to give kids accurate age-appropriate information in a calm manner. The more relaxed you are when speaking to them, the more relaxed they will be. Explain that everyone staying home is protecting their grandparents and people who already have other illnesses. Reassuring them that most people who get the virus don’t get sick or have only cold-like symptoms. It’s important to limit the time that they watch TV or are on social media since the media can create unnecessary anxiety by reporting the worst news. Keep a close eye on them and listen to their fears. Make yourself available for a conversation if you see that they are acting out in unusual ways. Frequent communication is always better. You might be working from home right now, but make sure you set aside time to talk to them and answer questions they have.
Children with Disabilities Might be High Risk
The media often discusses the people who are at high risk for severe complications from the COVID-19 virus. Kids might think they are more likely to get sick because of their disability. Depending on their type of disability they may or may not be at higher risk. Click here
to read what the Center of Disease Control (CDC) says about determining if a person with a disability is more vulnerable. Explain the extra precautions you are taking to keep your family safe. Here
is a list from the CDC of extra precautions you can take at your house if your child is at higher risk.
Give Them a Sense of Control
Give your children a sense of control by explaining all of the precautions that can be taken to keep everyone healthy. Teach them proper handwashing and if they are old enough, have them help you clean around the house. When you go outside teach them about social distancing from the neighbors. Teach them how to properly cough and sneeze into their elbow or a tissue. Teaching them that although the virus is contagious there are many things that everyone can do to keep each other safe. It is also important to keep kids on a structured, schedule similar to what they had before the quarantine. Kids will feel better when they know that they will get up early, get dressed, have breakfast, do school work and keep a normal evening routine. It’s good for children and adults alike to keep a regular sleep schedule, especially while we are all in quarantine.
Cherish This Time Together
Before the COVID 19 pandemic and we were all constantly busy with work, school, after school activities and sports events. I think we all longed for some time to slow down and spend quality time with our kids. None of us wanted our slow down to look like this, but we still need to find the silver lining. Spending time with our kids is a gift and we need to let them know that. You have time to read books, cook and play games with your kids. Tell them how much you love them and cherish this extra time. This pandemic will not last forever, we may look back on this time with our kids and see it as a gift. Kids take emotional cues from their parents. If you are looking for the silver linings during this pandemic, your kids will too.